Wijith DeChickera watches the skies and a squadron of interested parties encroaching on more than our airspace

It’s a bird… it’s a plane – it’s a regional power beating up the sky over a small southerly neighbour. Of course, it was the 70th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Air Force last month; so the joint aerial exercise was evidently justified. Could it be however, that a demonstration of air power over a friendly capital was meant to send a strong signal to watching eyes?

India is not the only major player in our (no longer) backwater isle to profess an inordinate interest in our wellbeing, which is to say our location and hard infrastructure, and their soft loans.

While Colombo’s elite watched amid five-star trappings the air show over Galle Face and the gobsmacked hoi polloi followed suit, lined up along Marine Drive, other eyes could scarcely have failed to note the iron hand in the velvet glove. China countered that aerobatic show of force with a subtler – though no less obvious – currency swap later the same month.

Ostensibly to boost Sri Lanka’s flagging fortunes, the US$ 1.5 billion monetary instrument symbolises the incumbent administration’s ongoing unwillingness to seek a 17th IMF bailout. Albeit rejecting fiscal restructuring that is anathema to a government confident of its economic policy direction and keen to go its own way, prone to no little danger though it is to our sovereignty.

Our cash-strapped island nation’s economic woes seem of least concern to the silent masses. Bar a few troublemakers in parliament who make a racket at egregious lapses (to put it politely) in governance such as the loss (or ‘revenue forgone,’ as we have been told) – to the tune of 15.9 billion rupees – to state coffers ensuing from the sugar scam, the madding crowd seem inured to the country’s plight.

DIVERSIONS Caught between the rock of national insolvency and the hard place of international disapprobation (vide the chronically bothersome UN resolution on Sri Lanka), our governors – once facing sanctions and loss of markets, as well as preferential trade status there – have resorted to smoke and mirrors to engage the attention of an easily distracted citizenry.

It’s not cricket this time but an up and down on a proposed ban on the burka, in response to which civil society especially on social media has ill spent its time distinguishing between that veil and the hijab or niqab.

Is that the priority in a secure state lacking vision, mission, passion, purpose and unity? It’s the COVID-19 cremation versus burial fiasco all over again, which saw Prime Minister Imran Khan’s carrot give the lie to pseudo-scientific shtick.

Burka, shayla or chador, a mask is a mask is a mask… national security versus national insecurity?

Trust a discerning public would see through the facade of our poverty when it comes to developing a stable national identity. Hope springs eternal. How long has it been since the mask of cynical manipulators of public sentiment – at Aluthgama, Dambulla, Digana, coronavirus burials – fell after their chicanery was first suspected and then exposed?

DETONATIONS The powder keg that was the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday 2019 attacks fizzled out into a damp squib. The voluminous findings revealed what was already known despite the political agitation around the contents orchestrated by the emblematic cardinal – leader of our country’s aggrieved Catholics – hinting at darker goings-on.

Then he too expressed acceptance of the report – so it’s a case of ‘let the dead bury their own dead,’ and the cloak and dagger aura around 4/21 will finally be laid to rest… at least until the next politically opportune moment!

Cui bono?’ (Who benefits?)

Certainly, not the wounded or dead, or their loved ones… and even those high and apathetic officials culpable of gross negligence as regards the nation’s erstwhile security may get off with no more than a black mark against their names, much less criminal prosecution as is warranted.

It was ever thus. We may all carp or cavil about global censure and forestall foreign interventionism on home soil by staunchly standing our ground against any sort of international enquiry into our doings.

Yet, whether alleged war crimes or grand larceny of state resources – both bond scams and bonded warehouse sugary-sweet deals by dint of leaked tax tweaks – we let successive governments and their money-minded henchmen off the hook…

DEVIATIONS Of course, in a cynical nod to accountability, successive administrations have resorted to political theatre through the agency of tribunals, round-the-clock courts or presidential commissions of inquiry to investigate allegations of political victimisation.

But worse than the whiff of contempt of court whereby the executive may cast aspersions at the judiciary, nothing significant has ever eventuated from legal proceedings against past crimes.

No, apart from despatching the long arm of the law to collar a teen who recently alleged on a talk show that deforestation was taking place under state sanction, there has been a blatant turning of blind eyes on gubernatorial wrongdoing.

It’s the state of the nation: investigating the innocent who speak truth to a corrupt regime and their cronies; while ignoring rampant criminality ranging from raping nature to rapine and pillage of national assets and resources.

It a bird… it’s a plane – no, wait… it’s only a bird after all – a cuckoo that lays its eggs in another’s nest… and hopes to hell that no eye in the sky or Big Brother is watching.